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Ancient Slavic mythology

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Ancient Slavic mythology

Ancient Slavic supreme god Perun

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Slavic mythology

Slavic mythology is the mythological aspect of the polytheistic religion that was practised by the Slavs.

Unlike Greek or Egyptian mythology, there are no first-hand records for the study of Slavic mythology. Despite some arguable theories (for instance, the Book of Veles), it cannot be proven that the Slavs had any sort of writing system before Christianity; therefore, all their original religious beliefs and traditions were likely passed down orally over the generations, and basically forgotten over the centuries following the arrival of Christianity. Before that, sparse records of Slavic religion were mostly written by non-Slavic Christian missionaries who were uninterested in accurately portraying pagan beliefs. Archaeological remains of old Slavic cult images and shrines have been found, though little can be yielded from them without legitimate knowledge of their contexts, other than confirming existing historical records. Fragments of old mythological beliefs and pagan festivals survive up to this day in folk customs, songs, and stories of all the Slavic nationse Christianisation.

The religion possesses many common traits with other religions descended from the Proto-Indo-European religion.

 

Literature

 

The most numerous and richest written records are of West Slavic paganism, particularly of Wendish and Polabian tribes, who were forcibly made Christian only at the end of the 12th century. The German missionaries and priests who criticized pagan religion left extensive records of old mythological systems they sought to overcome. However, they hardly restrained themselves from “pious lies”, claiming pagan Slavs were idolatrous, blood-thirsty barbarians. As none of those missionaries learned any Slavic language, their records are confused and exaggerated.

Another very valuable document is the Chronica Slavorum written in the late 12th century by Helmold, a German priest. He mentions 'the devil' Zerneboh (Chernobog), goddess Živa, god Porenut, some unnamed gods whose statues had multiple heads and, finally, the great god Svantevit, worshiped on the island of Rügen who, according to Helmod, was the most important of all (Western) Slavic deities

 

A clip about rturning to our old ways

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9oWfZy9i4E

Archaeological remains

 

Statues of several Slavic deities were discovered in 1848, on the banks of the Zbruch river, a tall stone statue was found, with four faces under a single stone hat. Because of its likehood with Saxo's description of the great image in the temple of Rügen, the statue was immediately proclaimed a representation of Svantevit, although it was clear it could not be the original Svantevit of Rügen. Several other multi-headed statues were discovered elsewhere. A tiny four-headed statue from the 10th century, carved out of bone, was unearthed amongst the ruins of Preslav, a capital of medieval Bulgarian tsars. A two-headed, human-sized wooden statue was discovered on an island in the Tollensesee lake near Neubrandenburg: in the Middle Ages, this was the land of the Slavic Dolenain tribe, whose name survives in the name of the lake. Furthermore, a three-headed statue was discovered in Dalmatia (Croatia) on the hill bearing the name of Suvid, not far from the peak of Mt. Dinara called Troglav.

The remains of several Slavic shrines have also been discovered. Some archeological excavations on the cape of Arkona on Rügen island have uncovered vestiges of a great temple and a city, identified with those described by Saxo. In Novgorod, at the ancient Peryn skete, archeologists discovered the remains of a pagan shrine likely dedicated to Perun. The shrine consisted of a wide circular platform centred around a statue. The platform was encircled by a trench with eight apses, which contain remains of sacrificial altars. Remains of a citadel with a more or less identical layout were discovered on a location with the suggestive name Pohansko (Paganic), near Břeclav in the Czech Republic.

All these archeological remains have the multiplicity of aspects in common. Statues of gods with multiple faces and remains of shrines with multiple sacrificial altars confirm written reports of Christian missionaries about the Slavs worshipping polycephalic gods, and also indicate that ancient Slavic mythology apparently put great emphasis on worship of deities with more aspects than one.

Also quite important are remains of several pieces of pottery from 4th century Chernyakhov culture. Russian archeologist Boris Rybakov identified and interpreted symbols inscribed onto them as records of the ancient Slavic calendar.

It is commonly claimed that worshiping among Slavic people often happened in the woods rather than in shrines. Such woods were called "gaje" in the Proto-Slavic language (compare Polish gaj 'small wood, thicket, bush, grove'; see: sacred grove), and were sometimes encircled by a fence which created a sacred area, both a natural and social sphere. Sometimes they would be used as cemeteries as well (see Kleczanów Wood).

 

Folk and Fairy tales

  • Fairy tales about various fantastical characters and creatures such as Alkonost, Baba Yaga, Koschei the Deathless, Firebird, Zmey, songs and tales of legendary heroes such as Russian bogatyrs, and superstitions about various demons and spirits such as domovoi, likho, vilas, vampires, vodyanoy, rusalkas etc. Many of these tales and beliefs may be quite ancient, and probably contain at least some elements of old mythical structure, but they are not myths themselves. They lack a deeper, sacral meaning and religious significance, and furthermore they tend to vary greatly among various Slavic populations.

Beautiful slavic modern song - Oda dubravi

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpbwZ6qCSGU&feature=related

 

  • Folk celebrations of various Christian festivals and popular beliefs in various saints. It is, for instance, quite clear that a popular saint in many Slavic countries, St Elijah the Thunderer, is a replacement of old thunder-god Perun. Likewise, traces of ancient deities can also be found in cults of many other saints, such as St Mary, St Vitus, St George, St Blaise and St Nicholas, and it is also obvious that various folk celebrations, such as the spring feast of Jare or Jurjevo and the summer feast of Ivanje or Ivan Kupala, both very loosely associated with Christian holidays, are abundant with pre-Christian elements. These beliefs have considerable religious and sacral significance to the people still performing them. The problem is, of course, that the elements of pre-Christian religion are hopelessly mixed into popular Christianity.

Calendar and festivals

 

Slavic myths were cyclical, repeating every year over a series of festivities that followed changes of nature and seasons. Thus, to understand their mythology, it is important to understand their concept of calendar. On the basis of archeological and folklore remains, it is possible to reconstruct some elements of the pre-Christian calendar, particularly major festivals.

  • The year was apparently lunar and began in early March, similar to other Indo-European cultures whose old calendar systems are better known to us. The names for the last night of the old year and the first day of the new year are reconstructed as Velja Noc (*Velja Notj)/Velik Dan (Velikŭ dĭnĭ) (Great Night/Great Day). After Christianization, these names were probably passed onto Easter. In Slavic countries belonging to Orthodox Churches, Easter is known as Velik Dan/Great Day, whilst amongst Catholic Slavs, it is known as Velika Noc/Great Night. The names blend nicely with the translation of the Greek Megale Evthomada, Great Week, the Christian term for the week in which Easter falls. In pagan times, however, this was a holiday probably quite like Halloween. Certain people (shamans[citation needed]) donned grotesque masks and coats of sheep wool, roaming around the villages, as during the Great Night, it was believed, spirits of dead ancestors travelled across the land, entering villages and houses to celebrate the new year with their living relatives. Consequently, the deity of the last day of the year was probably Veles, god of the Underworld.
The spring fertility festival of Maslenitsa, rooted in pagan times and involving the burning of a straw effigy is still celebrated by Slavs all over the world, as seen here in Melbourne, Australia.
  • There was a large spring festival dedicated to Jarilo, god of vegetation and fertility. Processions of young men or girls used to go round villages on this day, carrying green branches or flowers as symbols of new life. They would travel from home to home, reciting certain songs and bless each household with traditional fertility rites. The leader of the procession, usually riding on a horse, would be identified with Jarilo. The custom of creating pisanki or decorated eggs, also symbols of new life, was another tradition associated with this feast, which was later passed on to Christian Easter.
  • The summer solstice festival is known today variously as Pust, Ivanje, Kupala or Kries. It was celebrated pretty much as a huge wedding, and, according to some indications from historical sources, in pagan times likely followed by a general orgy. There was a lot of eating and drinking on the night before, large bonfires (in Slavic — Kres) were lit, and youngsters were coupling and dancing in circles, or jumped across fires. Young girls made wreaths from flowers and fern (which apparently was a sacred plant for this celebration), tossed them into rivers, and on the basis of how and where they floated, foretold each other how they would get married. Ritual bathing on this night was also very important; hence the name of Kupala (from kupati = to bathe), which probably fit nicely with the folk translation of the future patron saint the Church installed for this festival, John the Baptist (Ivan Kupala Day). Overall, the whole festivity probably celebrated a divine wedding of a fertility god, associated with the growth of plants for harvesting.
  • In the middle of summer, there was a festival associated with thunder-god Perun, in post-Christian times transformed into a very important festival of Saint Elijah. It was considered the holiest time of the year, and there are some indications from historic sources that it involved human sacrifices. The harvest probably began afterwards.
  • It is unclear when exactly the end of harvest was celebrated, but historic records mention an interesting tradition associated with it that was celebrated at the Svantevit temple on the island of Ruyana (present-day Rugen), and survived through later folklore. People would gather in front of the temple, where priests would place a huge wheat cake, almost the size of a human. The high priest would stand behind the cake and ask the masses if they saw him. Whatever their answer was, the priest would then plead that the next year, people could not see him behind the ritual cake, i.e. that the next year's harvest would be even more bountiful.
  • There probably also was an important festival around winter solstice, which later became associated with Christmas. Consequently, in many Slavic countries, Christmas is called Bozhich, which simply means little god. While this name fits very nicely with the Christian idea of Christmas, the name is likely of pagan origin; it indicated the birth of a young and new god of the sun to the old and weakened solar deity during the longest night of the year. The old sun god was identified as Svarog, and his son, the young and new sun, as Dažbog[citation needed]. An alternative (or perhaps the original) name for this festival was Korochun.

World Tree

 

World Tree, is also present in Slavic mythology. It is either an oak tree, or some sort of pine tree. The mythological symbol of the World Tree was a very strong one, and survived throughout the Slavic folklore for many centuries after Christianisation. Three levels of the universe were located on the tree. Its crown represented the sky, the realm of heavenly deities and celestial bodies, whilst the trunk was the realm of mortals. They were sometimes combined together in opposition to the roots of the tree, which represented the underworld, the realm of the dead.

The pattern of three realms situated vertically on the axis mundi of the World Tree parallels the horizontal, geographical organisation of the world. The world of gods and mortals was situated in the centre of the earth (considered to be flat, of course), encircled by a sea, across which lay the land of the dead, where birds would fly to every winter and return from in spring. In many folklore accounts, the concepts of going across the sea (idit) versus coming from across the sea (dolazit) are equated with dying versus returning to life. This echoes an ancient mythological concept that the afterlife is reached by crossing over a body of water. Additionally, on the horizontal axis, the world was also split; in this case by four cardinal points, representing the four wind directions (north, east, south, west). These two divisions of the world, into three realms on the vertical axis and into four points on the horizontal, were quite important in mythology; they can be interpreted in statues of Slavic gods, particularly those of the three-headed Triglav and the four-headed Svantevit.

 

A movie about polish paganism with english titles

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hN0Xky7u9No

Pantheon

 

Creation:

  • Rod - Creator of Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld. Comes out of the Egg bringing Fire.
  • Lada - Mother of the gods.
  • Svarog - Chief god of the heavens.

Heaven: Sons of Svarog, the main Slavic gods associated with formal rituals.

  • Svarogovich - God of fire and the forge.
  • Perun - God of lightning, warriors, and storms - became identified with St. Elias.

  • Dazhbog - God of the sun, the White God (Belobog).

Earth:

  • Zemlya - Earth goddess - referred to as 'Mother Damp Earth' (Mat Syra Zemlya). [Terra (Roman), Gea (Greek), Erda (German): The planet Earth, soil/land, and the goddess are identified by the same name, usually given the title Mother. It is reasonable to assume the Slavs did the same thing, although their lack of ritual for goddesses make it impossible to prove.]

  • Kupala - Water goddess [overall command of water sources].
  • Veles/Volos - God of agriculture/animal husbandry [god with a ritual] - became identified with St. Blasius.

Underworld:

  • Chërt - Chief god of the underworld, the Black God (Chërnobog). Rarely mentioned, no doubt to avoid his notice. He should have two helpers, but, if there is little mention of him, there is less mention of his associates.

Lesser Gods:

  • Yaro/Yarilo - God of Spring/fertility - stronger following among Western Slavs who call the season Yaro and identify him as the White God.
  • Zorya - actually three Zori: Evening, Morning, and Night who guard the Wild Dog (sometimes identified as Simargl) held captive in the Little Dipper to prevent him from eating the world. [Probably borrowed, the Romans called this constellation Ursa Minor (Little Bear) and Simargl was imported from Persia.]
  • Stribog - God of winds.

  • Dogoda - West wind [Probably borrowed from Persian Adad.]
  • Mokosh - Fertility goddess [Probably borrowed from Georgians/Armenians.]

The Little People: Can be helpful, but are easy to annoy, normally resulting in disfigurement or death.

  • Leshiï - Forest Elf - blue skinned/green haired.
  • Rusalka - Water Fairy - beautiful maiden, one per body of water or river.
  • Bannik - Bath House Brownie* - one per bath house [Think sauna.]
  • Domovoï - House Brownie* - one per house.
  • Dvorovoï - Yard Brownie* - one per yard.
  • Ovinnik - Barn Spirit - black cat with green eyes - one per barn.
  • Polevik - Field Brownie* - one per plowed field.

    * - Brownie indicates short, brown-skinned, man-shaped spirit.

Mythical Beasts/People:

  • Baba Yaga - Evil witch of great power who lives in a chicken-legged hut in a marsh surrounded by a picket fence topped with human skulls. Eats people and is generally disagreeable.

  • Bogatyri - Russian version of the Knights of the Round Table and the Paladins. Naturally there were three of them.
  • Rorag - Roc/Firebird/Phoenix - eagle with fiery plumage, associated with Rod's Egg.
  • Seryï Volk (Grey Wolf) - truly Slavic, a shape-shifter with great wisdom.
  • Simargl - Dragon [Persian Simurgh - Roc] - flying monster, sometimes with dog's head.

Slavic paganism today

 

For the last few decades, Slavic paganism has gained limited popularity among the Russian public, with many web sites and organizations dedicated to the study of Slavic mythology     and some who openly call for "returning to the roots." 


Some musicians are also influenced by paganism, such as pagan metal band Arkona.

Most of the neopagan movements take place in Russia and Belarus, but they also take place in other Slavic countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland, Croatia and Ukraine

 

Summary

 

The number three: Slavs really like the number three, and tend to group things in threes whenever possible. Nine is the second most popular, being three threes. Many folk tales are about three brothers, with the youngest always winning. Heaven-Earth-Underworld, Rod-Lada-Svarog, Svarog's sons, Zemlya-Kupala-Veles, the Zori, the Bogatyri, all triads.

Rod's Egg: The Slavs continue to honor the Egg by incorporating it into the celebration of Easter. The ultimate expression of the Egg are those created by the House of Fabrege for the Tsars, used as Easter presents beginning with Aleksandr III.

Burial rituals: The early Slavs cremated the dead to help the soul rise up to Heaven, also a reasonable practice when bears and wolves live in the area. The Christian practice of burial can't have been an easy sell, a grave was closer to the Underworld, further from Heaven, and not easy to dig six months of the year because of frozen ground. I would not be surprised to find that for an extended period after the Baptism of the Rus, locals told the priest that a bonfire was needed to thaw the ground for burial, whereupon they cremated the body in secret and buried an empty coffin with the priest in attendance.

Hell must have been another problem, as fire was sacred to the Slavs, and cold was death. I'm not sure how much of a threat burning in Hell was to most Slavs. It was probably similar to imprisoning a Orthodox monk. Prison would be a general improvement in living conditions for most Orthodox monks, who tended to live in hand-dug caves with barely enough room to crouch in.

Death: Homicide and suicide were the only types of death that were not considered natural. All other causes were considered the will of one god or another.

Sacrifices: The usual ritual sacrifice amounted to a barbeque, with the animals burned, and then eaten by the congregation. Most gods were satisfied with a 'cockerel past crowing', but sometimes, goats, sheep, and cattle were needed. (Veles wasn't into poultry.) Human sacrifice was not a feature of the old Slavic religion.

Temples: Early 'temples' for most ritual sects consisted of an oak grove surrounded by a circle of stones, or a moat. Some featured statues, but there didn't seem to be an absolute requirement for images. It was much later, near cities, that buildings were constructed for worship, and images became a regular feature. The early circles tended to be for a single god, while the buildings were polytheistic.

Oak trees: The hardwood oak tended to be struck more often by lightning, provided long burning fuel for the winter fires, was the source of charcoal for forges, and provided animal feed in the form of acorns. It was sacred to all the major gods.

Perun: By the time of St. Vladimir, Perun was more war-like, probably the Viking/Thor influence. While always a god of warriors, Perun was more of a Defense God, than a War God in earlier times.

Bears: I'm surprised that there aren't more bear stories. I guess familiarity does breed contempt. Bears have been trained by the Slavs for centuries. The primary use of bears in elder times was to locate bee hives. The Slavs traded honey to the Vikings, who used it to make mead, and the wax was traded to the Byzantine Empire, to be made into candles. The Russian word for bear is Medved, a compound word derived from the roots of Honey and Seer/Witch, reflecting the bears use in the search for honeycombs. The United States spent years thinking of the Russian Bear as a Grizzly, when it was closer to Winnie the Pooh.

Major Holidays: The Equinoxes were the major Slavic holidays. The people witnessed the battle between the White God (Belobog) and the Black God (Chërnobog). Of course, the White God always won in the Spring, and the Black God in the Fall. Rations would have been short for the Spring Equinox, but people would celebrate the coming warmth and begin their preparations for planting. There was more food in the Fall, but the Black God's victory was a warning of the hard times to come.

 

This was the cycle of Slavic life:

  • Times are hard, but will get better;
  • Times are good, but will soon get worse.

 

 

RUSALKA

 

In Slavic mythology, a rusalka (plural: rusalki or rusalky) was a female ghost, water nymph, succubus or mermaid-like demon that dwelled in a waterway.

According to most traditions, the rusalki were fish-women, who lived at the bottom of rivers. In the middle of the night, they would walk out to the bank and dance in meadows. If they saw handsome men, they would fascinate them with songs and dancing, mesmerize them, then lead the man away to the river floor to his death.

The stories about rusalki have parallels with those of Hylas and the Nymphs, the Germanic Nix, the Irish Banshee, the Scottish Bean Nighe and the Romanian Iele

Discussion Forum

Close, but not quite

Started by Zara. Last reply by Ksenija Apr 21, 2011. 1 Reply

I am so happy to have found this group. While what I study isn't Slavic per say this is the closets I have found to date, that there are others. Do others here study the Neolithic religions of the…Continue

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Comment by skealon on March 6, 2013 at 3:35am
Comment by Gregory Przybylinski on February 10, 2013 at 7:16pm

This is just the "tip of the iceberg."   There is a wealth of enlightenment here.  

Comment by skealon on February 9, 2013 at 12:45am
Comment by skealon on February 6, 2013 at 2:56am
Comment by skealon on December 22, 2012 at 2:11am
Comment by skealon on December 22, 2012 at 2:10am
Comment by skealon on December 21, 2012 at 2:38am
Comment by skealon on December 6, 2012 at 2:46am
Comment by Baldursson on April 29, 2011 at 1:48pm

I wanted to wish you a very Blessed Beltaine weekend.   May your fires burn bright.

 

Bright Blessing

Baldursson

Comment by Baldursson on March 21, 2011 at 7:15am

Good morning all.  A new week is upon us.  I wish you all love and strength to accomplish all you set out to do in this new week.

 

Bright Blessings

Baldursson

 

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